Tag Archives: Portugal

Hallelujah! A Hot Sunny Day! But I Almost Broke My Arm Again!

We woke up one morning in Porto and realized it was a beautiful day!  No rain. The sun was shining and it was lovely and warm. We had planned to hang out at our hotel till we took the bus into the city for the afternoon tour we had booked, but we weren’t about to waste this wonderful bit of sunshine.  Who knew how long it would last? 

So we set off for the centre of Porto. Just across from our hotel an enterprising elderly woman and her family had created a clothesline by tethering wooden sticks and ropes to street signs. They were taking advantage of the nice weather to dry their clothes.  There are very few clothes dryers in Portugal. Everyone hangs their wash outside – in apartments they hang it off their balconies- just like in Hong Kong when we lived there. I took this photo in Lisbon.

We walked to the bus stop past this old abandoned house right beside our Porto hotel. We actually had a little bit of excitement with the bus. Dave got on and was paying his fare. I waited for him to finish before I got on. But the bus driver must not have seen me. He closed the doors. Instinctively and probably stupidly I stuck my arm in the door thinking it would open. It didn’t and the driver put the bus in gear to take off with my arm still securely stuck in the door. I pounded on the door with my other fist and shouted and Dave alerted the driver to my presence. So he stopped and opened the door freeing my arm. Sheesh!  I could have broken my wrist again and it’s just healed from its December break. But all was well and several people on the bus were concerned and ever so nice and asked if my arm was okay. Once we got into the city lots of  people were out enjoying the sunshine. The street musicians were taking advantage of the nice weather too. 

We took a little time to check out the Sao Bento Train Station. It is just lovely and inside high on the ceiling are painted the names of the two main rivers in northern Portugal

The station also houses many huge tiled blue and white murals. This one depicts rural life in Portugal. See the mother taking a break from the harvest to nurse her child?This one shows the wedding of Henry the Navigator’s parents Phillipa of Lancaster and King John I of Portugal. Speaking of Henry the Navigator that’s him beside the globe at the top of the monument and that’s Dave sitting on the park bench furthest to the right. While I checked out an urban market for souvenirs Dave enjoyed the sun in the park. It was still an hour till our tour started when we found this lovely little place with chairs in the sun offering a glass of wine from the Douro Valley at a bargain price. We couldn’t pass up that deal! So we just sat and enjoyed the beautiful day and did some serious people watching. 

We haven’t had lots of great weather in Portugal but maybe that’s good because it certainly made us appreciate the lovely days we did have.

Other posts……

The T-4s Welcome Spring

Sunday Morning at the Olive Mill

Sun Dogs and Steam

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Putting the Port Into Porto

Since my husband Dave has a glass of port every night before he goes to bed taking a port tour in Porto was a MUST on our visit to the city. 

The river front is lined with signs for all of the different port houses located there

Porto is world-renowned for its port wine. In fact port wine originated here and gets its name from the city. Other places in the world produce fortified wines too but only those from the Douro Valley in Portugal are legally allowed to be labeled as port. David our tour guide started by asking each of the participants in our tour group to say where we were from.  There were folks from different parts of the United States- Washington, Maryland, Wisconsin, Illinois,New York and people from Romania, Ireland, England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Poland and five of us from Canada.  We walked across the Luiz Bridge to the Gaia side of the beautiful Douro River where there are dozens of port houses along the quay. Up a narrow alley we found our first port house Quinta de Santa Eufemia. In this port house we tasted a ruby port and learned all about the oak barrels the port is stored in and the cork used to stopper the bottles. 

On the way to our second port house we saw this amazing piece of street art called Half Rabbit. It is by an artist named Bordalo II. Porto is famous for its street artists many of whom have gained international recognition. This piece was made from trash and discarded items found around the city of Porto. One half has not been painted so you can see what those items are. Next up was the Ramos Pinto gallery. The original owner of this gallery used all kinds of lewd posters to sell his wine around the world in the 1800s.  We saw the posters as well as the original owner’s opulent office that included a throne for customers to sit on.  But were not allowed to photograph the posters or the office. I tried to get a good picture of our tour guide at this winery because both Dave and I were just blown away by how much she looked and sounded like our friend and former Steinbach neighbour Ingrid. We tasted two ports at Ramos Pinto a white and ruby.  Dave and I had such a wonderful time visiting with the young people who shared our table. One couple was from Toronto where the fellow was a graduate student in medicine and his wife a speech pathologist.  They both had parents who immigrated to Canada from India to make a better life for their kids. Their families had traveled back to India many times so we compared notes on our India travels.

The young man had played soccer in his earlier university days and had participated in an international tournament in Shenzhen China.  We visited Shenzhen at least once a month when we lived in Hong Kong. So we had lots of shared experiences about Shenzhen to discuss.  The young woman had just been to Winnipeg to celebrate a friend’s 30th birthday. So we talked about The Forks and Winnipeg restaurants.

The other twenty something guy at our table was from New Zealand. He had just returned from a year of back packing through Latin America and now had a job in London.  I become so heartened about the future when I meet young people like this. Articulate, bright, well-educated, well read, hard working, interested in seeing the world, helping others and broadening their horizons. Our last port house visit was to Porto Cruz. First we went up on the rooftop terrace of the port house.  It was packed with people all enjoying the absolutely stunning views of Porto it provided. While Dave chatted with a woman who owned a gourment food company in Ottawa, I took some shots of the city from the roof top. 

We tasted four kinds of port here, white, roseau, tawny and vintage. I had a great time visiting with the couple across from me. He was from Germany and she was from Australia. They fell in love when his work took him to Australia for a year. She is  visiting him in Europe now and they are trying to decide if they can make a long distance relationship work.

At this port house our guide David gave us lots of tips for how to smell port, swirl our port glass and hold it properly. drink port so we can really enjoy the flavor, and what kinds of foods go best with each type of port. The white port was my personal favorite. At this last port house Dave was deep in conversation about golf, baseball, hockey and the March Madness basketball tournament with a recently retired businessman from Wisconsin. He and his wife have just started tackling their travel bucket list.

We loved our port tour in Porto. Although drinking the port and learning about how it was made was great, visiting with the other people on the tour was definitely the highlight. The world is a much smaller place than we realize and we have so many things in common with our fellow human beings.  

Other posts……..

Roll Out the Barrel

Three Wines for Three People

Remembering Yalta


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An Evening Stroll Along the Douro

When we arrived in Porto- wonder of wonders it wasn’t raining.  We decided to take advantage of the clear skies with a walk along the Douro River. We are staying in Gaia just across  from Porto so we had great views of the city of Porto from our side of the river. This driver had found the perfect little parking spot for her car. People were out on their front porches having an evening cigarette. Gaia has been a city since the Roman occupation of Portugal in the 3rd and 4th century. There were lots of fishing boats along the river. In the Algarve region many of the houses were covered with white plaster. Here in the Douro Valley many are covered with tiles. We saw ship builders at work along the river.  There were a half dozen or so cruise ships anchored along the river, getting  ready to start the cruise season which begins this coming week. The city of Porto looked intriguing from the other side of the river and made us excited about the city tour we had booked for the following day.  

There were so many restaurants along the river.  How would Dave pick where to have supper? He finally chose a place and we ordered a tapas board of cheese and olives and nuts and bread along with Sangria and a flaming chorizo sausage.  The flame from the sausage helped keep us warm on a very chilly night.

We didn’t walk home but took the train and bus, since one of the things Dave really enjoys doing in a new city is figuring out the transportation system and mastering it.

Other posts………

River Boat Tour

Snake Wine Travel Memory

A Perfect Afternoon in Gambo Newfoundland


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No More Churches!

The main cathedral in Evora

“NO MORE CHURCHES!”  My husband Dave expressed his opinion fairly strongly. After we took a tour of Evora, Portugal I had to promise my husband Dave we wouldn’t visit any more churches. He is so tired of them.  I am getting tired of them too.

Dave and our guide outside St. Francis Cathedral in Evora

 I felt sick after we visited the church of St. Francis which had just undergone a MASSIVE renovation that must have cost tens of millions of dollars.  

The newly restored nave showing the baptism of Jesus in the Church of St. Francis

Everything is gilded with gold and made of marble. Artists, engineers, historians and religious experts from all over the world were brought to Evora to help with the restoration. The church is a UNESCO heritage site and as such perhaps needs to be preserved, but I kept thinking about how the money used for the restoration might have been used to help struggling folks in Portugal and other places around the world.  And what would St. Francis say? He turned his back on his family’s fortune to pursue a life of poverty and service.  He is probably rolling in his grave at the extravagence displayed in the church named after him.   

The Church of our Lady of Grace in Evora 

I grew up in a town called Steinbach that has almost thirty churches.  Evora has thirty churches too.   But here’s the thing…… hardly anyone attends the Evora churches anymore.

The Igreja de Santo Antao in Evora

To deal with this dilemma  the 30 churches in Evora have come up with a very common sense solution.  Maria told us they each hold mass one day of the month.  Church goers know the schedule and go to whatever church happens to be celebrating mass that day.  Since most churches are close together in the city’s heart this works well. 

This organ built in 1542 is in the Cathedral of Évora. It still works and is played on special occasions.

The churches also share an organist. A young man adept at playing heritage musical instruments moves from church to church as well.

Walk down any street in central Evora and you are bound to see a church.

Our tour guide told us people don’t even have weddings in churches anymore.  It is cheaper and more convenient to get married elsewhere. Most of the churches in Portugal are really more like museums and serve as tourist attractions and sources of income rather than houses of worship. Almost every church in Evora charges an admission price to enter. 

At any rate we won’t be seeing any more of them.  I have made a promise to my husband. 

Other posts……….

Picking a Church Out of A Cereal Bowl

A Church and A Bar on Every Corner

A Tiny Church

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Blooming Portugal

Other posts……..


Flowers of Costa Rica

Flowers of Jamaica

Wild Flower Inspiration

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Spending the Day with Antonio and Jose

jose and antonioMeet Antonio and Jose.  Two great guys who spent four hours introducing us to Portugal’s cork forest. antonioAntonio is a geometry teacher, wine maker and sculptor who studied art in Italy and now lives with his wife and two children in Redondo Portugal.  joseJose is an archeologist who grew up in a little village called Freixo and now lives in his wife’s grandparents’ home in Redondo. Jose will become a father in a couple of months. He is an accomplished accordion player.

peach tree

Outside the Herdade da Maroteria farmhouse/office where our tour began.

Together these two intelligent, incredibly informative and talkative fellows give tours in the Aljento area of Portugal for Herdade da Maroteira Farms a fifth generation family business.

cork farm logo

The two R’s in the farm’s logo refer to its founder Robert Reynolds.

 The farm was started in the 1800s by a British immigrant named Robert Reynolds.  It has a huge cork forest, a vineyard, an olive orchard and raises sheep.  

logo of cork trekking tour company

The current farm owner is a big fan of the children’s book Ferdinand the Bull and this is reflected in the tour company’s logo.

Tours have recently been added to their business model under a label called Cork Trekking.  

dave and simbaOur tour started with coffee in the Herdade da Maroteira Farms office. The farm owns six dogs and Simba the beagle really liked Dave. Simba has one injured foot from when she was caught in a fox trap as a pup.  

sheep block our roadOur tour had just begun when our road was blocked by part of the farm’s sheep flock. sheep herd portugalWe had to wait till the shepherd had herded them out-of-the-way. cork forestThe cork trees all grow naturally. None were planted by the owner on the 900 acres of the farm’s cork forest. The forest has been here since the 1500s. The forest is separated into 10 sections and only one section has the cork stripped from the trees in any given year. A cork tree’s bark can be harvested only once every decade. dave cork branchOnly the outer layer can be stripped off the tree.  If the inner layer is damaged the tree will die.  Here Jose’ shows Dave the outer layer of the tree that is stripped during a short period of time in spring when the temperature and humidity is exactly right. Cork stripping must be done expertly and people train for years to learn how to do it. It is a job that is physically and technically demanding but only can be done for a few weeks each year so cork strippers although paid well, need other employment to supplement their income. numberon cork treeTrees are numbered after being stripped of their cork bark. This tree was harvested in 2014 so it won’t be stripped again till 2024. 

Here are a few photos of the cork stripping process from Jose’s  Facebook page. cork stripping

cork strippers

cork strips piled upmarylou with baby corkI am beside a baby cork tree.  Most of the trees in the cork forest are 150-200 years old and the cork is not stripped from a tree till it is between 35-50 years old. Although there are cork trees in other countries, Portugal is the number one producer of cork. cork trees

Jose and Antonio told us how good cork trees are for the environment. They remove far more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than other trees. There are no chemicals used in the growing of the trees. The bark is not even stripped with modern electric tools but simple axes and knives. dave marylouJose is a practicing archeologist so he ended the tour by showing us a series of monoliths, ancient burial sites from the neolithic period. monolith cork forest portugalThese stone monolith structures could mark the spot of hundreds of buried bodies from a community. The bodies were buried in the fetal position and the structures looked like wombs with a passageway in front. monolith portugalThis monolith may have provided shelter to hermit monks in the 14th and 15th century. in a monolithIt provided a nice reprieve from the wind and rain for us too. dave with jose and antonioThe day of our tour it was almost always drizzling and sometimes pouring. It was cold and so incredibly windy at times we were sure we’d be blown over. Yet we had a great adventure, not only because we learned about cork and monoliths but mostly because talking with Jose and Antonio who are widely read, thoughtful and great conversationalists….. about politics, history, culture, agriculture, immigration, education, family history, social dynamics and economics gave us a great window into life in Portugal. 

Other posts……..

Walking in a Haunted Forest

Up in the Trees With a Man Who Knew it All

Trillium Walk


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That Jets Hat

dave walk in algarve portugal

My husband Dave only brought one hat to Portugal for our two months here and it is his Winnipeg Jets hat.  Maybe you’ve noticed him wearing it in practically every photo on this blog. It is surprising how many conversations that hat initiates. We just checked into a hotel in Evora Portugal.  In the lobby a man asked about Dave’s hat. Turns out he was from Ottawa and his son had played in the NHL for the Ottawa Senators.  His son was now on a hockey team in Sweden. “Those Jets are playoff material this year aren’t they?”  he remarked to Dave and a long conversation ensued. 

dave and rudy espiche golf course
During a golf round in the Algarve Dave and Rudy met some Finnish golfers who treated them like old friends when they saw Dave’s Jets hat. Then Dave initiated a conversation about Patrik Laine and he thought the Finns might hug him. They were THRILLED Dave knew all about their native son. lunch in bergauIn a restaurant a couple approached Dave after seeing his Winnipeg Jets hat and told us they were Canadians. Turns out they ran a campground in Manigotagan and were traveling through Portugal checking out Portuguese campgrounds.  

lagos zoo

Dave chatting with an ape about the Jets at the Lagos zoo after the ape started a conversation about his hat

This is just a sample of the way Dave’s Jets hat has helped us meet people here in Portugal. Dave faithfully watches highlights of all the Jets games on my computer so he is keeping up with the Jets’ progress and cheering them on from here.  We have planned our arrival home so he can use the last of his seasons’ tickets and share in the excitement of the Jets making the playoffs. 

Other posts……..

Did You Enjoy the Game? 

First and Last Game of the Season

Bear Town

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Up and Down with the Brauns

It has been raining LOTS every day in the Algarve.  Despite this we have managed to get in two great hikes with our guests John and Velma. cousinsWe first hiked down to the beautiful rock formations at the Lighthouse in Lagos. lunch lighthouseWe stopped for a lunch break before tackling the 200  steps leading down to the ocean. kissing at the point lagosIt was Dave’s idea that each couple pose for a romantic picture down by the rocks before we walked back up the stairs. brauns at the point lagos

We had already been to the Ponta da Piedade site with our friend Rudybut were happy to go down there again and introduce its beauty to John and Velma.

hiking to the lighthouse On Wednesday we went on our second hike to the small community of Burgau. hke to bergauVelma and I had some great conversations as we walked up and down the cliffs. burgau lunchAfter having lunch in Burgau we explored the village walking up and down the steep streets. 

Our morning walk had been quite pleasant but the afternoon turned bitterly cold and the wind was blowing hard.artist on the beach I admired this dedicated artist who was down on the beach in Burgau braving the elements to paint the scenery. bus stop at bergau

Because the rain was coming down quite hard we decided we would take the bus home. We have caught the bus up at the top of a hill in Burgau before and I always wanted to have my picture taken with the cool mural on the wall of the bus shelter.  So yesterday I did!

We sure to hope the weather improves a little for the rest of the Braun’s stay.  They are hardy travelers however and are the kind of folks who will have a good time despite the ups and downs of the weather. 

Other posts……….

A Family Affair

Our Home in Praria da Luz



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A Family Affair With An Exciting Start


supper at mere lagos

Having dinner with John and Velma- our cousins, Paul and Shirley- our brother and sister-in-law and Ken who is Paul and Shirley’s friend.

Had they been in an accident?

On Sunday afternoon Dave’s cousin John and his wife Velma arrived to spend a week with us.  Monday morning we were looking forward to a visit from Dave’s brother Paul, his wife Shirley and their friend Ken. They are staying in a community about an hour’s drive away and said they would arrive at our place at 11:30.  

When they didn’t come by 12:00 we thought they might be a little lost.  

By 12:30 we figured they might be really lost.  

At 1:00 we wondered if they’d had a flat tire.

At 2:00 we speculated that one of them had experienced a serious health crisis.  We kept checking our e-mail but no word from them.

At 2:30 we were sure they had been in a horrible accident.

When they finally arrived close to 3:00 we found out they had gotten REALLY LOST!  I blame myself for not sending them detailed enough directions and was just SO grateful they were all okay and had arrived. 

windy day hiking to lagos

It was a cool and breezy day for hiking .

We had some tapas and then set off on a hike.  We had wanted to go to the spectacular Ponta da Piedade site, but it was a very windy day and some members of the group found the path quite gruelling and so we adapted our plans and headed straight to the Mere Restaurant in Lagos about a 6 kilometer trek from our home. hiking to lagosDave and I took a bit of good natured ribbing about leading them on such a long hike before they could eat supper and for choosing a restaurant that wasn’t very authentically Portuguese and too modern.  

goat cheese appetizer mere

Amazing goat cheese made here in the Algarve served with fig and pumpkin jams.

But……….. a fabulous goat cheese appetizer

cataplana dish

Dave and I shared a hot and delicious cataplana dish

and the wonderful fish offerings on the menu along with the local green wine and a pitcher of  Sangria inspired plenty of positive comments and lots of  merriment as did the promise of a taxi ride home instead of a hike. 


Dave’s brother Paul feeling accomplished after the first leg of our hike.

Back in Praia da Luz we had our nightly glass of port and dish of ice-cream and played euchre, a long standing tradition on the many previous winter holidays we have enjoyed with Paul and Shirley.  Then we all headed to bed.  In the morning two different groups set out on a walk through the community and both came back with Portuguese egg tarts for all. Shirley made coffee and we had a lively visit around the kitchen table enjoying our double round of tarts and a conversation that ranged from art to politics to music to the experiences most in the group recalled from their growing up years in Leamington, Ontario. 

Before noon Paul and Shirley and Ken headed back to their place.  It was lovely to have so much family together in Portugal. 

Other posts………

Terrified Times Three

Snake Wine Memory

A Bone Rattling Introduction



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A Top Ten List About the White Storks of Portugal’s Algarve

I have been intrigued by all the white storks we have seen in the Algarve and have been photographing them. I wondered why there are so many.  So I did a little research.  Here are the top ten things I learned about the storks of the Algarve.

  1. Males and females look almost the same although the male is sometimes a little larger.  Storks are monogamous and partner for life. Males and females build their nests together.
  2. Storks don’t sing like many other birds however they do make sounds by clattering their beaks. They open and close their beaks quickly making a very loud kind of knocking sound.
  3. Storks from all over Europe that used to migrate to Africa flock to the Algarve now and stay here all year round. This is partly because climate change has brought milder weather but also because storks no longer need to travel to warmer points to find the lizards, frogs, worms, snakes, insects and fish that used to be the mainstays of their diet. Now they eat at landfills and from people’s garbage cans which provide them with junk food all year round.
  4. Their nests are enormous and built on top of chimneys, telephone poles, church steeples and in trees. Portuguese law protects the nests which are made of sticks, branches, grass and twigs. The same nests are used year after year. It is believed some have been in continuous use for a hundred years. 
  5. The female lays three to five eggs in April and babies become independent after three months. Both parents share the tasks of sitting on the eggs, feeding the babies and protecting and nurturing them.
  6. Storks can live for as long as thirty-five years.
  7. Storks are social creatures gathering in huge flocks of up to two hundred here in the Algarve.
  8. An old Hans Christian Anderson story called The Storks  popularized the idea that storks bring babies into the world. According to German folklore storks found babies in caves and swamps and brought them to couples in a basket held in their beaks. Sometimes the babies were dropped down chimneys. Greek and Roman myths feature storks as examples of devoted parents caring for their children and in turn also as devoted children caring for their aging parents.
  9. The long broad wings of the stork with a span of up to 185 centimetres allow it to soar gracefully through the sky. 
  10. Some 14,000 storks are thought to make their home in the Algarve area of Portugal

Other posts…………..

Finding the Elusive Quetzal in Costa Rica

The Dawn Chorus

Dave Driedger Bird Detective

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